Yo, heave ho!: History

December 15 2009   30 Commented

Yo, Heave Ho!

“Ej, Uhnem!”, (Russian: “Эй, ухнем!”), roughly translates to “Yo, Heave Ho!” This well-known Russian folk song is also known outside of Russia as “The Song of the Volga Boatmen“. The burlaks (boatmen) first appeared in Russia in the late 16th century. A burlak was a hired laborer who walked along the bank of the river as part of a crew, dragging ships against the current with a tow rope. The work was extremely heavy and monotonous. The song became widely known thanks to its performance by the great Russian bass, Fyodor Ivanovich Shalyapin, and has since become a favorite part of the repertoire of many singers and performers, both inside and outside of Russia. The famous painting by Russian artist Ilya Repin, “Burlaks on the Volga” (shown below), was inspired by the song.

Leonid Kharitonov, as a true admirer of Fyodor Shalyapin, is honored to include this song in his repertoire. His performance of this song as a soloist with the Alexandrov Ensemble served to increase its popularity even more, especially in the Soviet era. With the release of a video of a 1965 television performance of the song by Kharitonov and the Ensemble, its popularity outside of Russia reached new levels.

Regarding his interpretation of the song, Leonid Kharitonov reflects on its deep meaning for the Russian people and the strong emotions that it evokes. The hard labor of the burlaks is portrayed by the seriousness of his expression throughout the performance, with the exception of a momentary lightening—even the shadow of a smile—when he sings: “We are singing our song to the Sun.” He says that he smiles at this point as if the Sun was the only joy for the haulers in their hard labor and their hard way of life.

IMPORTANT! English subtitles have been added! Be sure to turn Captions (CC) on in the YouTube player to view the subtitles! It’s the last button on the right on the player’s tool bar.

On this web site are two versions of “Ej, Uhnem!” Note both the similarities and the differences in these two equally stunning performances. The first–here–is Kharitonov’s Tchaikovsky Hall debut as a soloist with the Alexandrov Ensemble in April 1965. The second–on this page–is a video of the 1965 television performance. For this performance, the German film director (who formerly worked for Hitler) has placed the choir in the shape of the letter “V”, representing the bow of a ship, with Kharitonov in front of it as if he were a burlak.

Burlaks on the Volga
Ilya Repin 'Burlaks on the Volga', (1870-1873)

You can find much more information about this song here (in Russian).


Lyrics:

Эй, ухнем, эй, ухнем!
Еще разик, еще раз!
Эй, ухнем, эй, ухнем!
Еще разик, еще раз!
Разовьем мы березу,
Разовьем мы кудряву,
Ай да, да, ай да!
Ай да, да, ай да!
Разовьем мы кудряву.

Эй, ухнем, эй, ухнем!
Еще разик, еще раз!
Эй, ухнем, эй, ухнем!
Еще разик, еще раз!
Мы по бережку идем,
Песню солнышку поем,
Ай да, да, ай да!
Ай да, да, ай да!
Песню солнышку, поем!

Эй, ухнем, эй, ухнем!
Еще разик, еще раз!
Эй, ухнем, ей, ухнем!
Еще разик, еще раз!
Эх ты, Волга, мать-река,
Широка и глубока,
Ай да, да, ай да!
Ай да, да, ай да!
Широка и глубока!

Yo, heave ho! Yo, heave ho!
One more time, once again
Yo, heave ho! Yo, heave ho!
One more time, once again
Now we fell the stout birch tree,
Now we pull hard: one, two, three.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Now we fell the stout birch tree

Yo, heave ho! Yo, heave ho!
One more time, once again
Yo, heave ho! Yo, heave ho!
One more time, once again
On the bank we walk along,
To the sun we sing our song.
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
To the sun we sing our song.

Yo, heave ho! Yo, heave ho!
One more time, once again
Yo, heave ho! Yo, heave ho!
One more time, once again
Ah, you Volga Mother River
Wide and deep
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Ay-da, da, ay-da!
Wide and deep.


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30 Responses to “Yo, heave ho!: History”

  1. Nenad says:

    Best regards from Serbia. I love this song and live performance of your father. It a real joy. Many Russian songs are so popular here.

    Best healt for you and your family!

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  2. Dop says:

    Dear Admin,

    I’ve only recently become acquainted with Russian music. Songs like these lift one’s spirits and motivate, even with great inner sadness. Although it might be some time before you respond, do you have any advice where I can find similar songs? Another song that also captivated me is “Katusha”.

    Thank you for your response, and send my regards to your father, the artist.

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  3. Omar says:

    i cant stop listening to it, i even learned the lyrics and i asked my teacher if i can sing it, but i need team to do this, i wish i get some.

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    • admin says:

      Dear, Omar! We hope that you will find your team soon! )

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  4. Mihai Toma says:

    Hello!

    I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it in Chaliapin’s interpretation, and much more so in your father’s rendition. The feeling behind this song is very much akin to a part of our Romanian past, and it gets straight to my soul.

    As a Music University student (a basso), I would very much enjoy singing this song. Unfortunately, for the very life of me, I cannot find a piano+vocal sheet music in our libraries or on the Internet -- not even for sale. Would it be possible to help me in this regard, by any chance?

    Thanks in advance, and all the best to you and your father.

    Mihai Toma

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  5. Tisa Rhynes says:

    Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more.

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  6. Christian Louboutin says:

    Wonderful journey and experience!

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  7. Lexman says:

    I sing bass in a local church choir here in Lexington Massachusetts — every year we finish off with a light program with some refreshments we call the “Strawberry festival”

    A fellow bass and I am practicing Эй, ухнем in Russian

    your 1965 rendition and also the earlier one by Fyodor Shalyapin (Chalipin) are our reference and practice material — a kid of karaoke

    you have a fabulous website — I only wish that you had some guide to Russian pronunciation for non native singers

    Thanks for your great bass voice — a true treasure

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    • admin says:

      Dear Lexman.

      How wonderful to hear that you are learning Эй, ухнем in Russian for your performance! Should there be a video made, perhaps you can upload it to YouTube and let us know! We would love to see your performance!

      Thanks for your appreciation of the web site and your warm words about the artist! And best of luck with your performance!

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  8. Amoa79 says:

    You have a new fan! I love your stuff here and will be back again.

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  9. c.l.oudbright3 says:

    I’ve been looking around http://www.lkharitonov.com and really am impressed by the terrific content material here. I work the nightshift at my job and it is so boring. I have been coming here for the past couple nights and reading. I simply wanted to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I’ve seen and I look ahead to reading more.

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    • admin says:

      We are very glad that you liked our posts. Please, visit our web site often!

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  10. Paper Air Planes says:

    This is really first rate. Can’t wait for new posts from you. Thank you so much for this.

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    • lmksings says:

      Thanks for your comment! Please watch for more posts!

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  11. Christiane says:

    Like I’ve already said elsewhere, I really love this songs, especially sung by your father.
    BTW Here, near the river Elbe at Dresden, where I live, there had been men to haul upstream the Elbe. But in contrary of the Russian burlaks the Saxony ones had been paid well for this dangerous job. They also had their songs to get a working rhythm.

    Best regards

    Christiane

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    • admin says:

      Christie, what an interesting comment! Thank you for this. I’d love to hear such songs of the Saxony burlaks some day! )

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      • Christiane says:

        I’ve found some lyrics but no notes or examples. If you’re interested, I could translate the into English as it’s a real strange dialect.

        Best wishes

        Christiane

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        • admin says:

          That’s great! )) Can you send both?.. You can send it to the e-mail shown on the first page (“Home”) in the third paragraph. Thank you!

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          • Christiane says:

            You’ve got Mail 🙂

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          • admin says:

            Thank you, Christiane, for sending such an interesting material! I liked those lyrics so much! I need to use it on my Russian web site… And we liked your translation too! Some of poems were a bit funny! ))

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          • Christiane says:

            I’m glad you like it. Let me know if you want to get more interesting stuff.
            It’s a pity that many of our old songs become lost at schools and in usual listening. I’m a bit active in the mediaeval and folk scene where these songs still exists.

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          • admin says:

            I agree with you about the old songs… and let me thank you once again for your comment and your help! BTW have you already checked out our “Music” page? Lots of good folk songs there too!

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          • Christiane says:

            Yeah, I’ve found lots of interesting stuff there. On my way to work I’m listening this music.

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          • admin says:

            Wow! That’s great and very pleasant to hear! We’re trying to translate some other lyrics in English. We already have some there on the Music page… You can check out “more info” link there.

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  12. George Daymond Lush says:

    I love all the popular Russian songs and this was often performed on television when I was a child in England. My father explained to me why the Volga boatmen sang this song and I happened upon the name Leonid Kharitinov while looking for Ej,Uhnem on Youtube to day. What a lovely way to start Christmas eve. His voice is heart stopping and I still have “goose bumps”. Thank you for enriching my day
    George Lush
    England

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    • admin says:

      Dear George,

      Thank you very much for your comments! It’s great to know that you so enjoy these Russian songs! We will translate and redirect your message to the artist. We hope that you’ll continue to explore and enjoy the web site. And please check in from time to time--we’d love to hear from you again! All the best to you and Merry Christmas!..

      Mikhail

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  13. Dear Mr. Leonid Kharitonov

    I have listen at least hundred times the boatmen in Volga. Everytime when You start to sing, Your voice goes deeply in my soul. Its very difficult to explain.

    I am just courius to know how are you today, do You still sing or do You have live concert anymore.

    All the best for You

    Your great admirer.

    Esa Mäkinen
    Finland

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    • admin says:

      Hi, Mr. Mäkinen!

      First, let me thank you for your kind message and those warm words of yours! My name is Mikhail, and I’m the artist’s son. I showed your comment to my father who was very pleased to read it and to know that you like his songs so much. He also asked me to tell you that he has temporarily stopped his singing due to some health problems. But he hopes that he will perform again some day if God gives him such a chance…

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